First Impressions: The CW’s ‘Secret Circle’
The Secret Circle is The CW’s attempt to replicate the tremendous success they’ve had with The Vampire Diaries. Based on a young adult fantasy series written by L.J. Smith (who also wrote the Vampire Diaries books), The Secret Circle is being produced by Kevin Williamson (who also produced The Vampire Diaries). Do you sense a pattern here? As you can see, the two shows share a common lineage both on the page and on the screen. Having watched the first episode (which you can download free on iTunes), here’s my breakdown of this new paranormal teen drama…The premise is (shocker) pretty similar to The Vampire Diaries as well: an orphaned teen, Cassie (played by Britt Robertson), moves back to her parents’ hometown, where she discovers her supernatural roots, which of course come with a cute boy and magic powers. Luckily, she finds a new friend to explain everything to her, but oops! Helpful New Friend is dating Cute Boy! I wonder if that will cause conflict later. There’s also the token Bad Girl, who is easily identified by her leather jacket (and by Helpful New Friend’s description of her as the “resident bad girl”). Weird unexplainable things happen, which lead Cassie to accept (more or less) the fact that magic is real, and genetically ingrained in her. All of this excitement is accompanied by The CW’s signature pop soundtrack.
So what makes this show about pretty young white people different from other shows about pretty young white people? They’re witches, for one thing. The central teen characters are part of the new generation of the titular “Secret Circle.” I have to say, with all these vampires and werewolves running around television, it’s kind of refreshing to see a show about witches. Another thing that struck me was just how visually stunning Secret Circle is. The picture above might give you some idea of the beautiful visual effects that they used for some of the magic scenes in the pilot, which included [mild spoilers] floating water drops in the forest, a climactic thunderstorm scene, and a lot of fire. How pleasantly surprising to find a show on The CW whose setting and visual effects are as aesthetically pleasing as its flawless cast.
This latest crop of beautiful twenty-somethings playing sixteen-year-olds seems quite promising. Britt Robertson (from The CW’s short-lived Life Unexpected) stars as Cassie, and she brings some depth to this role, which could otherwise have been one-dimensional and annoying (like Elena from The Vampire Diaries–yeah, I went there). She has great chemistry with Thomas Dekker (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles), who plays Adam, AKA Cute Boy. I thought it would bother me that Thomas Dekker always looks like he’s wearing mascara, but I actually didn’t mind at all, and I was surprised by how much I liked him. He covered a lot of teen-romantic-melodrama ground in the first episode, in which he carried Cassie from a burning car, almost cheated on his girlfriend, and showed off his damaged side when he revealed that his mother is dead and his father is a drunk. So he’s off to a good start.
On the villain end of things, we’ve got Gale Harold (who looks like The Vampire Diaries‘ Daniel Gillies‘ slightly creepier brother) as the sketchy witch (or is it warlock?) who killed Cassie’s mother. Natasha Henstridge (Eli Stone) plays the high school principal who seems to be in cahoots with Captain Creeper. And then there’s Bad Girl Faye, played by Aussie Phoebe Tonkin, who actually said in an interview with Hollywood Life that she drew her bad girl inspiration from Sarah Michelle Gellar in Cruel Intentions. I know it was only the first episode, but they may have laid the bad girl ‘tude on just a little too thick with Faye. She reminds me a lot of Fairuza Balk’s character in The Craft, which, in case you haven’t seen it, is a movie about teen witches running amok with their newfound power. (Spoiler alert: it doesn’t end well.) Hopefully Faye will develop more as the show goes on, and I’ll learn to appreciate her for her finely-tuned snark and complete disregard for other people’s feelings.
The Secret Circle is the perfect companion series for The Vampire Diaries, which it will follow on Thursday nights at 9 on The CW. While it might not reach quite the same levels of fanaticism, I think it’s pretty much a lock for The CW in terms of ratings success. The Secret Circle is everything it aspires to be, namely, a lightweight but engrossing series about magically-inclined teens and their tumultuous romantic predicaments. The acting is better than might be expected, the story is ripe for exploration, and there’s enough mystery surrounding the town and the history of the Secret Circle to keep you wanting more. As much as I hate myself for getting sucked into yet another CW series, I’ll probably tune in every week to see where the show goes.